Louis Berger case: Probe on in Goa; project file missing

  • Kunal Purohit, Hindustan Times, Panaji
  • Updated: Aug 09, 2015 08:06 IST
Goa's former PWD Minister Churchill Alemao is accused of accepting bribe from US-based Louis Berger company to award them consultancy for water augmentation and sewerage project funded by JICA. (PTI Photo)

In another twist to the Louis Berger bribery case, it has emerged that the file pertaining to the Rs1,031-crore Goa water supply and sewerage project has gone missing.

Former Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat and public works minister Churchill Alemao have been accused of accepting $976,630 bribes from Berger officials to implement the project.

The missing file — which tracks the project from its inception to the approval stage and has the terms of involvement of the Japan International Cooperation Agency — is being used by both the accused and the police to target each other.

While for Kamat and his aides, the file is the biggest loophole in the investigation, for the police, it is the single-most reason why they need to arrest Kamat.

Arguing for Kamat’s custody, the police alleged that Kamat and Alemao are behind the disappearance of the file, as it allegedly contains incriminating evidence proving irregularities.

Kamat refused to comment, stating the matter is sub-judice.

“We have come across several instances – making changes to the committees formed to oversee the project, allowing Alemao to overrule an appointment and get men close to him into the panels and push for the project to be carried out under the local Goa state work board norms -- where Kamat allowed wrongdoings. These are issues related to Kamat, and not the controversial JICA norms” said a senior police officer.

Kamat also allegedly gave in t o Alemao’s demand to re place t he now ar rested director of the project, Anand Wachsunder, with another official named Chimulkar.

However, Wachsunder was brought back after JICA objected to it. “Kamat didn’t oppose Alemao’s demand and instead backed him. This proves his complicity,” said a police officer.

“The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has been in power since 2012. It must answer how the file went missing. If they don’t have the file, how can they target and arrest people on the basis of other people’s testimonies,” asked Durgadas Kamat, a state Congress leader.

Meanwhile, the additional secretary (finance), Michael D’Souza, has been interrogated by the Goa crime branch. Sources said the bureaucrat was also questioned about the missing file.

The police are also investigating if Raichand Soni, the alleged hawala operator who was arrested on Friday, has any links to the mining scam that was unearthed in 2011. Police officials said Soni, on Saturday, admitted to carrying out a hawala transfer of nearly Rs2 crore.

“He usually charges Rs500 on a transfer of Rs1 lakh” said an officer. Soni has been remanded in police custody for three days.

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